Extra Special Ale (ESA) - Yards Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Extra Special Ale (ESA)Extra Special Ale (ESA)

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BA SCORE
84
good

601 Ratings
THE BROS
85
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 601
Reviews: 263
rAvg: 3.71
pDev: 12.4%
Wants: 9
Gots: 66 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Yards Brewing Co. visit their website
Pennsylvania, United States

Style | ABV
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) |  6.30% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: pezoids on 12-01-2001

Our first ever and most beloved brew, ESA helped establish a following for cask-conditioned beer in the United States back in the ‘90s. East Kent Golding hops give this English style ale a subtle spiciness, which compliments its strong malt backbone. Hints of chocolate and caramel round out this deep chestnut colored ale. Floral, earthy, smooth.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 601 | Reviews: 263
Photo of bigdeuce
3.88/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a deep copper color with a nice tan head. Scents of roasted chestnuts on the nose with a floral hop note. Lacing with every sip. Huge hop flavor for an ESB. A bit out of balance for the style. Toasted, nutty, with a hint of hazelnuts on the front with an explosion of citrusy hops on the back. Very sessionable beer an especially nice in the fall. Yard's English style ales stand up to the big ones from Great Britain.

Photo of slader
3.75/5  rDev +1.1%

Would pair well with steak

Photo of stevoj
3.55/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Cask offering at O’Neal’s Pub. The cask variety adds an element of sourness to the normally bitter nature of this beer. Nice woody, dried fruit aroma, more dried fruit in the taste. This is more of a sipper, bringing to mind dubbels and sours. Nicely done!

Photo of delta490
4.04/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours a deep, rich, clear brown. Like nice, handmade antique furniture brown. Has a good cap of creamy off-white head that just sits there throughout and provides a lot of sticky lacing. The aroma is dark bread malt and dark fruit sweetness. The taste starts with the malt sweetness and transitions into the nice hops bitterness. There's a great weight to the body and a silky mouthfeel. This is a great ESB.

Photo of ThePaintedGrey
3.69/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12oz. bottle poured into pint glass. Reviewing from notes.

A: Pours a dark copper with a small light khaki colored head. Head retention is weak. Head fades down to a small ring of bubbles along the edges. Some semblances of lacing left behind.

S: Some caramel malts with a fair amount of grain and breadiness. Light hint of herbal hops. Maybe a little bit of dark fruit underneath, but there was too many aromas present in the room to decipher specifics.

T: Similar to the taste. Caramel malt, slightly burnt, balanced nicely by hop bitterness. Bitterness is confined nicely, as to appeal to those not into full-on hop assaults. Some nice bready, yeasty flavors paired with light hops in the finish.

M: Very solid medium body with good carbonation. Crisp, but smooth on the palate and drinks easy. Goes down great and doesn't fill you up too much.

O: Not a world-class brew, but a damn good offering from fellow Philly locals. This one would truly shine in a bar setting, or even at a dinner table. On its own, there's better choices, but this definitely isn't disappointing. Worth a shot.

Photo of Slatetank
3.61/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

I had this from the bottle, enjoyed chilled in a teku purchased from Giant Beer Garden & eatery

The color is walnut brown with translucent clarity and thick beige head with average bead and lace. The smell is toasted grain with mild yeast esters bringing a slight creamy sweet aroma. The feel is good with moderately high carbonation mild roasted texture and creamy semi-dry finish with mild sweetness in general.

The flavor has a subtle toffee and toasted malt presence with yeast bringing out a woody hop flavor near the middle with a slight alcohol warmth in the taste with slight spice and creamy caramel. Overall not a bad beer, pretty malty example of the style and on the high end of the alcohol for and ESB, but pretty tasty I would enjoy this on draft if offered.

Photo of Dix90
3.09/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: dark brown with a slight reddish hue. Bubbly white head with little to no lacing.

Aroma: Spiciness and caramel malts up front followed by earthy tones. Sweetness kicks in then the slight burn of alcohol in the back of the nostrils.

Taste: The taste follows the nose with spicy hops, sweet maltiness and a toasty roastiness. Taste sits happily on the tongue with a bitter warmness.

Mouthfeel: full feel that swishes pleasantly. Sits nicely on the whole mouth.

Overall: very enjoyable, as part of the yards variety pack I enjoy it as often as all the others in the pack (except the brawler). A good but not great beer.

Photo of scotorum
4.23/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from the 12 oz. bottle into a Sam Adams English Nonic glass

a: Deep clear amber, finger thick off-white head receded to even surface film and considerable lacing.

s: Caramel malt.

t: Caramel malt forward, some hop balance behind. Sweet to dry finish.

m: Moderate, nice and smooth.

o: A very good American representation of an English style ESB. Not as malty sweet as it might be, or rather more bitter than it might be, but that may be the result of the American influence. I would buy this again next time I'm in the Philadelphia area, since although it is highly a regarded brewery in the eastern PA/NJ area, it is not widely distributed.

Photo of Jeffreysan
3.57/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle poured into a pint glass

Appearance: Pours a gorgeous dark caramel/brown color with a quarter of a finger of white-colored head that disappeared into a thin lacing of foam that covered the entirety of the top of the beer.

Aroma: Very malty with some slight roasty notes too. Very bready, with some slight herbal notes.

Taste: Slight malt flavors in the front, followed by a hoppy finish, but not too hoppy. Some good caramel notes too, but overall a little thin in the flavor. Not impressed.

Mouthfeel: Medium. The beer is slightly smooth, with some good carbonation to tickle the tastebuds.

Overall: This is a pretty good beer, but not one of my favorite beers from yards. I much prefer the Tavern Ale, Tavern Spruce and George Washington Tavern Porter over this ESA.

Photo of DrDemento456
3.69/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - One dark ESB clear in color with a 1/2 inch of mocha head.
S - Smell is well... mild. Hops and malts with some tea leaves but its mostly faint.
T+M - Quite smooth tasting with mild herbal hops, some bready tones, bitter tea leaves, and a clean malt sweetness. Despite it's higher than average ABV it drinks like to medium in body.

OverallI may get this again, or the IPA but most likely the DIPA. Damn tasty!

Photo of metter98
3.68/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A: The beer is very dark reddish amber in color and has a moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a finger high light beige head that gradually died down, leaving a thin head covering the surface and lots of lacing down the sides of the glass.
S: Light aromas of herbal hops and earthy yeast are present in the nose.
T: The taste is similar to the smell, except that the malts impart light amounts of toasted malt flavors and faint hints of sweetness while the hops lend a very slight amount of bitterness.
M: It feels a bit more than light-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is very easy to drink and seems to have a good balance between the malts and hops.

Photo of WissBrauSean
3.71/5  rDev 0%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I poured this beer at about 55 degrees F from a bottle into a standard pint and it has a very deep amber to mahogany colour that is crystal clear with a one finger tan head of super fine bubbles that stay as a nice thin cap on the beer and leave and excellent dragon tooth pattern on the glass.

The aroma is of toasted malts, bread, and raisins with a faint whiff of corn in the background. I could be confusing that with something else, but it resembles corn. It's really pleasant considering.

The taste starts off sweet on the tongue and as it travels back it releases dark fruits with bread and as the beer comes to a close hop bitters that seem earthy to me coat the tongue and the back of the tongue where some spicy black pepper comes through leaving a mild but dry end to the beer that seems slightly more bitter than some ESAs. And if you wait long enough, you will taste a medicinal taste like Band-Aid's smell or like pine sol. It's very faint, but I see what people are talking about. That may be the hops. Interesting. It's like a band-aid on my tongue. I'm not sure that I like that.

The mouthfeel is a bit silky and sweet with a medium body, but it leaves a coat on my tongue that is a product of the dry hops I am assuming. The carbonation is around moderate.

Overall, I am not too happy with this beer. It's good, don't get me wrong, but don't think I will seek this out in bottle again. I have had this on tap and it was a different experience. A much better one. The corn aroma and the Band_Aid flavours really put me off as well as it was a bit too bitter for my taste and, I feel, the style if indeed it is an Extra Special/Strong Ale. I will still give it a mid to high 3's out of five. It's not crap, but it's just not for me.

Photo of tone77
3.37/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a brown 12 oz. bottle. Has a bronze color with a 1/2 inch head. Smell is mild, a bit of malts. Taste is well balanced malts an hops, a bit light, easy drinking but just seems to be lacking any punch. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and overall is a decent beer, but nothing great.

Photo of mooseo
3.78/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle into tulip.

A - Dark brown-mahogany with a small off-white head.

S - Sweet toasted malt, light dark fruit, nuts, and herbal spice.

T - Bready and nutty malts, earthy hops, and subtle dark fruit. Caramel, yeast, and slight spice. A tad bitter on the finish, with more toasted grain and nuttiness coming through.

M - Exceptionally smooth and silky. Medium body, average carbonation, somewhat dry finish.

O - This is a nice beer full of malty goodness. A slight bitter hop character tames the sweetness. Very soft mouthfeel. A good beer to sit back and relax with. It would be easy to drink a few of these in one sitting.

Photo of mactrail
3.01/5  rDev -18.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Large and malty. Great big flavors of juniper, resins, dank malt. Tastes like it's been sweetened and spiced, like some kind of holiday grog. Tastes good at first sip, but gets weirder as you drink.

Served in a big English imperial pint nonic. Pulled from the fake hand pump. Plenty of carbonation and a nice sudsy foam, with lots of lacing in the glass. No aroma to speak of. Winey and tastes like some new kind of Long Island Iced Tea. On the cask at Local 44 in Philadelphia. Interesting but I don't get it. [Transcribed from notes written on 05/30/2012 visit.]

Photo of garuda
4.03/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A - Deep copper, hazed, white cap has good retention with some lace.

S/T - Sweet bready caramel, toasted malt base balanced out with some bittering pine hops in the finish. Touch of spice.

M - Medium body, lower carb level, stays smooth, finishes clean.

O - Nicely brewed to style, easily drinkable, pleasant flavors.

Photo of DrinkSlurm
4.04/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from cask into standard pint glass at standard tap in Philadelphia. Pours a nice see through brown golden with creamy head. It looks awesome...but how can a brew poured from an engine look bad...
Smell is strong noble hop and nice sweet malt. Taste is smooth easy hop and malt. So smooth and drinkable. Really nice brew on cask. Just not sure how it would translate to bottle...very worth it from cask.

Photo of gr0g
3.13/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Review from notes taken on 01/15/2012.

Dark mahogany in color with a one-finger white head. Some lace curtains are left behind. Aroma is primarily of caramel and toffee notes from the malt, while a floral hop note backs them up.

Toffee malt and fruity esters on the palate. Hops contribute a a pronounced bitterness, but one that's well below IPA levels. A slight solvent presence on the finish detracts from the experience. I think I'd pay a little extra and pick up some Fuller's ESB over this.

Photo of cbutova
3.67/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had a few bottles of this out of my variety case so far. Yards is a solid brewery most definitely.

A- Poured into a pint glass with a very dark red, brown-looking body. A small light tan head forms to about a finger in size with decent retention. The foamy, creamy cap ends up with nice thick ring leaving nice webs of fairly thick lace.

S- This beer certainly has the feel of an English Ale. An interesting toasty, nutty and roasted malt profile is inviting. The yeast gives a nice dark fruit aroma along with bread and spice notes.

T- Fairly malty and yeast forward here too but the hops join in on it all. Dark fruits with a very slight medicinal taste are the main flavor I get along with a mix of yeast bread, spices, raisin, toast, roasted malts and some buttery caramel malts. Hops give off that European herbal, spicy and floral taste.

MF- Moderately thick body with a creamy and smooth overall consistency. Moderate level of carbonation with a silky feel. Slight spicy bitterness on the palate in the finish.

A fairly solid ESA/B but the dark fruit seems to get a bit more medicinal feeling than I would like it to be towards the end of the experience. Still another addition to a solid Yards lineup from what I have tasted.

Photo of SolipsismalCat
3.53/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass.

A: Clear dark amber with one-and-a-half-finger, off-white, creamy, foamy head that lasted several minutes and left a nice film. Pretty good lacing.

S: Caramel malt and a hint of dark fruit.

T: Light sweetness and light to moderate bitterness. Toasted malt. Light butter and nut flavor.

M: Medium bodied with fizzy carbonation. Slightly smooth.

O: Pretty good ESB. Looks nice in the glass and has the right flavor. A bit mild though.

Photo of barczar
3.53/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear deep amber with a frothy half inch cream head that dissipates slowly, leaving spotty lacing.

Deeply toasted malt, dark fruit, and caramel form the initial aroma. Nuttiness, a touch of roast, and earthy and floral hops round out the profile.

Floral hops abound in the flavor, carrying throughout, into an earthy, fairly bitter finish. A backbone of toasted malt ties in with fruity esters and a minerally character, adding complexity.

Body is moderate to full, with moderate carbonation and noticeable alcohol warmth. There's a bit of astringency at the finish.

Kind of an odd combination, with fruity esters and floral hops really dominating. Don't think I've had a beer with more floral hop flavor. The minerally quality and pretty bitter finish make things even weirder.

Photo of Electros
4.15/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Penn State is different, even coming from Canada, when it comes to beer sales. I picked up a 2-4 mixed, and actually, it was a sound investment for the hotel after Sesame Place. LOL.

Honestly, all of there beers were steller including this one. Colour, taste, smell, and mouth feel I wouldn't put at a traditional ESB (British), but for a American take, 'pretty spot on eh'. This had a great balance of the malt and hops as per par, and for most British ESB's in the 5% - 3.5% range, at 6%, they hid this very well!

Photo of Skepticalfriend
3.42/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A hint of staleness, but the flavor grows on you. There's an interesting tangy-ness. In the first one I drank, it seemed stronger. Maybe it's what I was eating. Airy bitterness on the finish. Lingers nicely. Tangy-ness yes, but very little sweetness - which is something I like. First drinks felt flat, but then it got a bit more body. Do beers change like wine after they're open?

Photo of socon67
3.6/5  rDev -3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Amber pour with a biege foam. Clumps of lacing around the pint glass. Foam retains well.

S - Smells of caramel malt, spices, and a little hoppy scent.

T - Flavors of caramel, light malts, and brown sugar. Finish has a mild bitterness. As with all the Yards beers I've had, this is a surprisingly complex beer.

M - Very sessionable. Light bodied, and has a raspy bite in the finish. Nothing fancy; just a light feeling ESB that starts sweet and ends bitter.]

O - If I had the option of Yards on Long Island I'd be happy. A nice craft beer that could eaily lure the BMC crowd.

Photo of TheMultiYeast
3.66/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours clear amber with a big honkin head. Great layers of lacing down the glass.

Smell is sweet, figgy, strangely metallic...

Taste is also metallic, grassy, sweet again, overripe dark fruit, quick bitter jab at the end.

Substantial brew but not my favorite from Yards.

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Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
84 out of 100 based on 601 ratings.